by Olena

Turkey Pasta Bake

by Olena

Turkey pasta bake in a dish.

Whole grain pasta, fresh kale (or spinach), and ground turkey topped with a reasonable amount of mozzarella cheese and baked until golden. This turkey pasta bake is perfect for a fairly quick weeknight meal, leftovers the next day and a meal prep.

In my house, everyone loves pasta with cheese, I bet in yours too. I just knew that I could sneak in a bunch of kale in this turkey pasta bake and nobody would complain. Nutritional powerhouse, kale is full of fiber, iron and antioxidants. I could see how this casserole would be a perfect candidate for going bad box of spinach.

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Many people are scared of pasta because of carbs and heavy sauces. Here is my take on it: whole grain pasta made with tomato sauce and a little bit of cheese will not hurt you if eaten in moderation. I mean once in a few weeks 1 – 1.5 cups. Remember, one bad meal won’t make you fat, just like one healthy meal won’t make you skinny.

How to Make Turkey Pasta Bake

  1. Cook pasta al dente as per package instructions, undercooking by 4 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of pasta water, and set aside. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Preheat large skillet on medium heat and add olive oil. Add onion and garlic, sauté for 2 – 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add ground turkey and cook for another 7 minutes, breaking meat into pieces and stirring occasionally. Drained pasta and meat sauce in a skillet
  3. Add tomato sauce, honey, pasta water, herb seasoning, salt, pepper, kale and stir. Add previously cooked pasta and stir again. Pasta with meat sauce in a skillet and then in baking dish with cheese on top.
  4. Transfer half of the mixture in 9″ x 13″ baking dish and sprinkle with 3/4 cup cheese. Top with remaining mixture and sprinkle with remaining 1 1/4 cups cheese. Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes.
  5. Remove foil and broil until cheese is golden brown. Serve hot garnished with parsley if desired. Turkey pasta bake inside and a wooden spoon

Whole grain pasta has more fiber than white pasta that has been stripped of nutrients. Simple carbohydrates like white pasta and rice cause high spikes of insulin thus inhibiting fat storage. I learnt that my body need good carbs to prevent me from overeating other food and thus going over my daily calorie intake. I do not count calories but I know what food I need to eat and when.

This ground turkey pasta bake turned out delicious and juicy. It serves 8 people and you could easily freeze the leftovers. Or assemble the casserole and freeze with plastic wrap on top. When ready to eat, bake from frozen and increase baking time by 15 – 20 minutes.

I remember when I was pregnant, I stocked my freezer with similar casseroles, and they helped a lot once the baby arrived. I hope you and kids enjoy!

Looking for more healthy pasta recipes? Try my one pot taco pasta with pumpkin, healthy pasta with broccoli or slow cooker whole chicken and pasta.

Print

Turkey Pasta Bake

4.3 from 3 reviews

Turkey Pasta Bake is a casserole recipe made healthy with ground turkey, whole wheat pasta, kale or spinach, and tomato sauce.

  • Author: Olena of ifoodreal.com
  • Prep Time: 8 minutes
  • Cook Time: 40 minutes
  • Total Time: 48 minutes
  • Yield: 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 cups (9 oz) whole wheat penne/fusilli pasta, uncooked
  • 1 tsp olive oil, extra virgin
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 lbs ground turkey
  • 28 oz tomato sauce, low sodium
  • 2 tbsp honey or maple syrup
  • 1 cup pasta water
  • 1 tbsp italian herb seasoning (oregano or basil), dried
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Ground black pepper, to taste
  • 4 – 5 cups kale (1 bunch), stems removed & chopped*
  • 2 cups (7 oz) mozzarella cheese, shredded & divided
  • 1/3 cup Italian parsley, chopped

Instructions

  1. Cook pasta al dente as per package instructions, undercooking by 4 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of pasta water, and set aside. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Preheat large skillet on medium heat and add olive oil. Add onion and garlic, sauté for 2 – 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add ground turkey and cook for another 7 minutes, breaking meat into pieces and stirring occasionally.
  3. Add tomato sauce, honey, pasta water, herb seasoning, salt, pepper, kale and stir. Add previously cooked pasta and stir again.
  4. Transfer half of the mixture in 9″ x 13″ baking dish and sprinkle with 3/4 cup cheese. Top with remaining mixture and sprinkle with remaining 1 1/4 cups cheese. Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes.
  5. Remove foil and broil until cheese is golden brown. Serve hot garnished with parsley if desired.

Store: Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 3 days or freeze leftovers for up to 3 months.

Freeze: Assemble, tightly wrap with plastic and then foil, and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight and bake as per instructions + 15 minutes.

Notes

*Spinach can be substituted for kale, especially that going bad in the fridge box staring right at you. When my spinach goes bad, I freeze the box to use later in a casserole recipe like this turkey pasta bake.

 Did you make this recipe? Please give it a star rating in the comments.

About Olena

Hi, I’m Olena and this is my healthy family recipes blog. Originally from Ukraine, I now live on magic Vancouver Island in British Columbia. I’m here to help you with “What’s for dinner?”.

Made a recipe? Tag @ifoodreal or #ifoodreal on Instagram. I would love to share in the “Look what you made” stories.

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39 comments on “Turkey Pasta Bake

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  1. I loved how easy this was to assemble. I also loved that the ingredients were ones I had on hand. I used a red lentil pasta, and using these directions, it came out with the perfect texture. I think that the seasonings were lacking for our taste. We wouldn’t make it again unless we could really figure out a way to zest it up.

  2. This was a hit tonight! Officially requested to be in the dinner rotation! Didn’t change a thing, except used only 1 lb of turkey and forgot to add the pasta water! Oops 🙂 Even still, it was delicious. I added a few dashes of garlic salt before putting it in the baking dish. Thank you for the recipe!

  3. This recipe was fantastic and very delicious. Everyone in my household loved it!
    Great way to incorporate the might Kale:-)
    Thank You!

  4. Turned out amazing! Filling but does not leave you feeling bloated. Tastes great. Definitely will make this again. Awesome post workout meal.

  5. Tried this for dinner tonight. Didn’t have the tomato sauce so did a can of whole tomato’s instead. Delicious. Family loved it.

  6. This looks delicious! Olena, could you replace the pasta with brown rice, quinoa, or zucchini pasta? My husband is not a pasta fan so I’m hoping to substitute

  7. Made this for dinner but added some red pepper flakes for heat and used honey instead of maple syrup. I also used frozen kale and organic ziti. My family loved it and so did I.

  8. Really tasty, I only had 1 pound of ground beef and regular white pasta. I also had some organic vegetable pasta sauce instead of tomato sauce. I just went for it and put what I had in there. Not altering any other ingredients. Kept the portions the same. Except the kale. I accidentally doubled it. But you couldn’t even tell. Still tasted great!

    1. Casseroles like this one are highly forgiving, use what you have on hand keeping the ratios dry:liquid the same, if you do not expect some traditional original Italian pasta bake that jumped off a Bon Appetite cover. Good job improvising, Kimberly!

  9. I’ve made this a least a dozen times in the past year or so, SO delicious! Would you make any changes to cook time or less tomato sauce/liquid if using all frozen kale?

  10. Confused by the pasta cooking instructions. Am I to cook it 4 minutes shy of the “al dente” time? So, if the box says 8 minutes for “al dente,” I only cook for 4 minutes? Or is “al dente” 4 minutes shy of normal pasta cooking time?

  11. Hi Olena,

    Can you please help me understand the measurements on the pasta and cheese? What is the “oz” amount in parentheses?

    Thanks!
    Kathryn

    1. That is if you are using scale for measuring. You can use cups. Some people use scale or to be more precise I add weight. Because for cheese you can pack cup lightly and not add enough.

  12. What exactly is the reason for the honey? I have yet to make the dish, so I’m not complaining, just curious. Not something you hear of in Italian cooking.

    1. A little bit of sweetener is added to any tomato sauce dish to offset the acidity of tomatoes. I use more naturally occurring version, honey, rather than processed sugar. Try not to add some and then taste after adding to see the difference.:)

  13. I had a couple of friends over and I did not know what to cook. I stumbled into this recipe and found I had all the ingredients. Needless to say, this dish was a hit! Thank you for all your posts! You are informative and you crack me up!

    1. Spot on, Michelle. I make this type of bake mostly during Fall/Winter and more than you because I have kids.:) Thank you for stopping by. You always leave me comments and I don’t. I don’t have time to read anything.:(

  14. This looks so delicious! I love how it looks so decadent, but it is healthy. Thanks so much for linking this to the Weekend Potluck. We are your newest followers on facebook. Hope your come back to the potluck this week!